Riyadh: Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain will participate in this month’s Gulf Cup football tournament in Qatar, organisers said Wednesday, signalling a thaw in their bitter two-year feud with Doha. The three Gulf states as well as Egypt cut relations with Qatar in June 2017, accusing it of bankrolling Islamist extremist groups and of being too close to regional rival Iran. Doha denied the accusations. In a U-turn, Saudi, Bahrain and the UAE announced they would accept their invitations to travel to Qatar to take part in the tournament. It will now be held from November 26 until December 8, the Arab Gulf Cup Football Federation (AGCFF) said at a briefing in Doha, having been delayed by two days to accommodate Saudi players.The trio will join hosts Qatar and visitors Iraq, Kuwait, Oman and Yemen for the tournament which will be redrawn Thursday to cover the extended line-up. The announcements signal a possible easing of the bitter rift between Doha and the Riyadh-led group, which in 2017 imposed bans on shipping, trade, direct flights, overflights and land crossings with Qatar. “Gulf soccer may be giving Bob Dylan’s 1964 hit, ‘The Times They Are a-Changin’, a new lease on life,” said Gulf analyst James Dorsey. “The decision not to boycott is the latest indication that Gulf states may be gradually moving to a reduction of tensions that have divided the region’s conservative energy-rich monarchies.”The boycotting countries had refused to participate in the previous Gulf Cup two years ago, which was originally scheduled to be held in Qatar just a few months after the crisis erupted. But they took part when the tournament was subsequently moved to Kuwait. “(We) officially accepted Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain’s participation in the 24th Gulf Cup in Doha at their request,” said Jassim al-Shukali, vice president of the AGCFF in front of the logos of the Saudi and UAE soccer federations.The Saudi-led alliance had so far defied pressure from Washington to lift its blockade on Qatar, which hosts a huge US air base. Qatar has refused their demands to shutter Doha-based broadcaster Al-Jazeera, close a Turkish military base in the emirate and to downgrade diplomatic ties with Iran. But fears of a wider regional conflict as Washington steps up economic pressure on Iran seem to have prompted the alliance to de-escalate tensions.”The latest round of escalation by Iran in the Arabian Gulf has played a major role here in addition to the desire of the US administration to utilise the collective effort of the Gulf countries — as a bloc — to counter Iran,” Gulf expert Ali Bakeer told AFP. Washington and its allies have blamed Iran for recent attacks on key Saudi oil installations as well as a string of assaults on oil tankers in the Gulf. Tehran denies the accusations. But there was no indication yet whether the Saudi-led bloc will lift its economic blockade on Qatar. “The football diplomacy is a welcome step but it falls short of resolving the Gulf crisis,” said Bakeer.Also Read | Qatar organisers plan to privately resist FIFA’s attempts to expand 2022 World Cup”The Qataris would like to see the blockade lifted as soon as possible and the end of other hostilities to show there is a serious will to end the crisis.” The development prompted a mixed response from Qataris, with many welcoming the move but calling for an immediate end to the blockade. “They are talking about signs that the Gulf crisis is coming to an end,” Hamad Lahdan al-Mohannadi, a Qatari engineer, said on Twitter. “The only indicator by which you can say that the crisis will end is (the end of the siege).” For all the Latest Sports News News, Football News News, Download News Nation Android and iOS Mobile Apps.
A week after getting upended in Seattle, the Trojans were supposed to return to the Coliseum and take their frustration out on Washington State like a drunken stepfather.This one was supposed to be ugly. The 45.5-point spread was more of a generous suggestion for the Trojan offense, which ripped the lowly Cougars for 69 points last season.When it was all said and done Saturday night, it most definitely was ugly, but not quite in the way USC had hoped.After jumping out to a 20-0 first-quarter lead, the Trojan offense stalled, the penalty yards started piling up and the final 27-6 score was way too close for a Washington State team that needed overtime to defeat Southern Methodist last week.Lingering issues · After USC failed to clean up its penalties and fumbling, Pete Carroll said his team still has plenty of work to do. – Dieuwertje Kast | Daily TrojanSo what does it mean? Plainly and simply, this USC team has a lot of problems to work out. For all its five-star talent and lopsided depth, there is great cause for concern for USC going forward.“The way I look at this game, it’s great to win, it’s fun to win at the Coliseum, but we’ve got a lot of work to do,” coach Pete Carroll said. “It just was not at all the kind of satisfying win we’d like to have.”And it wasn’t just a few bad breaks here and there. After the first quarter, the Trojans lost their rhythm and their focus across the board, putting up two goose eggs offensively in the second and third quarter before finally finding the end zone one last time in the fourth quarter.The most glaring dilemma taken from the win was that the Trojans did not learn from the mistakes that cost them an undefeated season last week. Their performance in the penalty department only got worse — they racked up 115 yards on 13 yellow flags, almost all of which killed drives and eliminated momentum.It was not the kind of outing USC fans expected, nor the kind the players expected from themselves.“We had 13 penalties overall, so I think when we have those numbers we can always be playing better,” freshman quarterback Matt Barkley said. “We’re gonna look back at the tape tomorrow … and see what can get corrected, but I do believe we can play better than we did tonight.”As Carroll put it, “It’s not stuff that’s indicative of playing good football.”Granted, some of the penalties USC was flagged for were awful calls, particularly a holding call on redshirt junior receiver Damian Williams that negated part of a long junior Joe McKnight run.“I’ll challenge half of those calls,” Carroll said of the penalties called on his team, adding, “I thought Damian’s block downfield on Joe’s big run was a fantastic block. ”Carroll still recognized the magnitude of the penalty problem, but not exactly with urgency.“We need to start practicing now and clean some things up,” he said. “We certainly can give a game away playing like that, so that’s the part we have to get rid of.”Another aspect the Trojans failed to improve much upon was third-down conversions. After failing to convert a single third-down last week, the Trojans mustered only three in nine tries Saturday, and this against one of the worst passing defenses in the country.“We have to get right and we’ve got to keep working at it,” Carroll said. “There’s just a lot of room for improvement.”Red zone scoring was also a problem. The Trojans were stopped twice on fourth down inside Washington State’s 2-yard line, failing to put any points on the board and allowing the Cougars to hang around.Then there were the fumbles. USC put the ball on the ground three times, losing two of them — one by Williams after a reception and the other by redshirt sophomore quarterback Aaron Corp while on backup duties.These are problems the Trojans vowed to fix. These are issues they promised never to repeat. But after one week, the jury is still out on how capable this USC team is of cleaning up its mishaps.After the game, the talk was already turning to next week, when the Trojans travel to Berkeley to face Cal in game that has lost a bit of its value after the Golden Bears suffered a 42-3 beating from Oregon Saturday. No matter how bad Cal looked against the Ducks, USC must fix the mistakes they have failed to correct in the last two weeks or it will be Washington all over again.On that note, a reporter asked redshirt junior linebacker Michael Morgan what he thought of Cal’s loss to Oregon.“Don’t take anything lightly I guess — play everybody,” Morgan said.Meanwhile, Barkley, who was sitting next to Morgan at the press conference, muttered under his breath, “We already learned that one.”After the Trojans’ lackluster display Saturday against the Cougars, I’m not sure they have.“Middle Ground” runs Mondays.